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18 Movies, TV Shows & Docs You Need To Stream This Juneteenth

From High On The Hog to 13th.

Watch Regina King in 'Watchmen,' available on HBO, this Juneteenth. Photo via Mark Hill/HBO
Mark Hill/HBO
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Juneteenth, which is commemorated on June 19, celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. It's also a time to spotlight and uplift Black stories, and one way to do that this year is by watching the movies and TV shows that celebrate Black voices. As Black Lives Matter protests continue to take place all over the country, and President Joe Biden just signed a bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday, streaming services like Hulu, Amazon Prime, Netflix, and HBO Max all provide a place to watch Black stories.

While the ongoing coronavirus pandemic continues to make celebrating holidays complicated, one small way that everyone can mark Juneteenth is by watching movies, documentaries, and TV shows from and about Black voices. Some of the titles currently available, like 13th and The Hate U Give, delve into the difficult but important systemic topics of police brutality, the need for prison reform, and more. However, viewers should also seek out stories of Black joy, love, and excellence that are available, like HBO Max's Legendary and Being Serena.

Even if you don’t feel comfortable gathering in groups just yet, that doesn't mean you can't celebrate and support Black artists while at home. Here are 18 titles to stream this Juneteenth.

Watchmen

Set in an alternate history timeline, Watchmen is a timely series about a masked vigilante played by Regina King based on the 1986 namesake DC Comics series. The show is full of superheroes and wonderfully weird sci-fi touches like squid showers. But it also opens with the Tulsa massacre of 1921 and delves deep into police corruption. Available on HBO Max.

Taste The Nation

Food writer and Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi gets her own travel cooking show in Taste the Nation, a Hulu original that premiered in 2020. In each episode, she highlights the culinary journeys of immigrants’ foods and their influence on American food culture. In Episode 4 of the first season, Lakshmi highlights the history, traditions, and cuisine of South Carolina’s Gullah Geechee people. Watch it on Hulu.

High On The Hog

If you want to learn even more about the Gullah people, you should also check out Netflix's High on the Hog, which highlights the journey of enslaved people from Africa to America and how their food and traditions have carried on through the years. The four-part docuseries released in May is based on Jessica Harris’s 2011 book, High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America, and hosted by writer Stephen Satterfield. The episode on the Black community's history with oysters and macaroni and cheese is particularly enlightening. Stream it on Netflix.

Notes From The Field

Pulitzer Prize nominee Anna Deavere Smith turned her one-woman show Notes From the Field into a searing exploration of America's school-to-prison pipeline for HBO. In the 2018 film directed by Kristi Zea, Smith dramatizes the real-life accounts of students, parents, and teachers who have witnessed firsthand how the current system pushes underprivileged students to go directly from school to prison. Available on HBO.

Legendary

Zach Dilgard/HBO Max

The underground ballroom community takes center stage in HBO Max's 2020 and 2021 competition series Legendary. Hosted by Dashaun Wesley, the performers aim to wow judges Jameela Jamil, Megan Thee Stallion, Law Roach, and Leiomy Maldonado, as well as a weekly celebrity guest judge. It's also a terrific show to watch this Pride month since it celebrates Black LGBTQ+ voices and experiences. Stream it on HBO Max.

Wyatt Cenac's Problem Areas

Wyatt Cenac's Problem Areas combines the talk show and travel documentary formats to explore the systemic issues facing Americans in different parts of the country — from rural Texas to downtown Cincinnati. Using comedy, writer and host Cenac does more than expose the problems, though. In the Emmy-nominated show’s two seasons, he also outlines ways to change the country for the better. Available on HBO Max.

Being Serena

A celebration of Black excellence, the five-episode HBO docuseries Being Serena gives an intimate glimpse of the life of tennis champion Serena Williams. Released in 2018, the first-person portrayal follows the pro athlete as she navigates her career, businesses, and her personal life from her pregnancy to the delivery room in an attempt to answer the question “What makes Serena Williams great?” Stream it on HBO Max.

13th

Ava DuVernay's Emmy Award-winning 2016 Netflix documentary 13th reveals the desperate need for prison reform in America. Through interviews with scholars and activists, the filmmaker dissects the systemic failings and racial inequality that has led to America's high incarceration rate and cycles of oppression. A sit-down interview follow-up to the film, 13th: A Conversation with Oprah Winfrey & Ava DuVernay, was released a year later on Netflix. Available on Netflix and for free via YouTube.

Southside With You

This joyful 2016 film, a directorial debut of Richard Tanne, tells the story of Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date in 1989 and the courtship that follows. The romantic Southside with You stars Tika Sumpter and Parker Sawyers as the young Obamas, and if you’ve ever wanted to watch how this power couple’s relationship blossomed, this is the movie for you. Available for rent on Amazon Prime.

Selma

Another DuVernay project, the 2014 historical movie Selma chronicles Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s historic 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in his fight to gain voting rights. The film stars David Oyelowo (as Dr. King), Oprah Winfrey, Tom Wilkinson, and Common and won multiple awards, including a Golden Globe and an Oscar. Stream it on Hulu Premium.

Black Panthers

Agnès Varda's powerful short documentary film Black Panthers, which premiered in 1970, provides a snapshot of the Oakland demonstrations that erupted after activist and Black Panther Party co-founder Huey P. Newton was imprisoned in 1968 for voluntary manslaughter. Through a series of interviews and clips from the rallies calling for Newton’s release, the film highlights the radical movement in the ’60s. Watch it on Amazon Prime.

Bessie

Starring Queen Latifah, HBO's 2015 biopic Bessie explores the life of legendary Blues singer Bessie Smith. Directed by Dee Rees, the movie is not only a great way to introduce yourself to Smith's music as “The Empress of the Blues,” but it also happens to be one of Latifah's best performances. It even won an Emmy award for Outstanding Television Movie. Stream it on HBO Max.

The Hate U Give

Based on Angie Thomas's 2017 book of the same name, The Hate U Give (2018) focuses on Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg), a 16-year-old girl who witnesses her best friend being shot by a police officer. Centered on police brutality, protests for racial justice, as well as race relations, the film also stars Regina Hall, Anthony Mackie, Issa Rae, KJ Apa, and Sabrina Carpenter. Available on Hulu Premium.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

In 2017, HBO released The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks based on the 2010 namesake book by journalist Rebecca Skloot that questions the intersection of race, medicine, and ethics. This movie is inspired by the real-life story of Henrietta Lacks, a woman whose cancer cells were used for research without her permission and changed the course of cancer treatment. It follows the story of Deborah Lacks (Oprah Winfrey), who, with Skloot (Rose Byrne), investigates what really happened to her mother, Henrietta (Renée Elise Goldsberry). Watch it on HBO Max.

Burn Motherf*cker, Burn!

The 2017 documentary Burn Motherf*cker, Burn!, directed by Sacha Jenkins, is another documentary about police brutality and the lack of police force accountability. It looks back on the famous 1992 Los Angeles protests sparked by the acquittal of four police officers in the beating of the unarmed Rodney King, despite his attack being documented on video. Stream it on Showtime.

Just Mercy

Released by Warner Bros. Pictures in 2019, Just Mercy stars Michael B. Jordan as Bryan Stevenson, the real-life co-founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, alongside Eva Ansley (Brie Larson). Based on Stevenson’s memoir of the same name, the powerful movie follows the young lawyer’s fight to appeal the wrongful murder conviction of inmate Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), who was on death row. Watch it on Hulu.

Judas And The Black Messiah

The critically-acclaimed film Judas and the Black Messiah (2021), released by Warner Bros. Pictures, follows the story of another Black Panther Party personality — its leader Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) — and his betrayal by the film’s “Judas,” FBI informant William O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield). Both actors were nominated for the same Oscar category for their performances in the movie, but Kaluuya ultimately won the award. Stream it on HBO Max.

Queen Sugar

OWN Network’s Queen Sugar is another DuVernay streaming project based on the namesake novel by Natalie Baszile. The drama series follows a New Orleans family (Charley, played by Dawn-Lyen Gardner; Nova, played by Rutina Wesley; and Ralph Angel Bordelon, played by Kofi Siriboe) as a relative’s death forces them to assemble back in their hometown. Watch it on Hulu +.